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Intentional Interim Minister Rev. Kyle Harris's Page

July 2024 Caller Article 

As I write this column, the presidential candidates are holding their first debate of this election season.  By the time I finish writing this column, it will have concluded and the spin will have started.  Certainly, much of our time and attention will be focused on this election and how it affects us -- collectively and individually.  Because this debate is being held so early (neither candidate has officially received their party’s nomination), we still have three more months of rhetoric and political spin left before anything is decided.


I know that many of you are worried about how to maintain your faith during this political season.  I believe many of you are worried about how to maintain your faith within a community that is experiencing turmoil and discord.  Our political environment is casting large shadows over many things going on in our daily lives.  It puts us all on edge.  Our emotions become frazzled and our patience wears thin for everyone we encounter.  So, I thought I would give you a glimpse into my thinking around living with faith in a time that “everyone around us” seems to lack faith, especially when it comes to politics.


A little about my perspective:  I am firmly Independent.  I have my leanings, but, in general, I don’t like either major (or any of the minor) political parties.  I don’t like extremes.  Pointing toward the extremes to prove a point or identify a boundary is unacceptable.  Living there doesn’t help anyone or anything except division and discord.  So, working to find a middle ground where most people benefit is an admirable goal.


I am a bit cynical -- sometimes my cynicism is for humor, but most of the time it’s because I don’t totally believe what we see on the surface of political banter is transparent or authentic.  I believe most of the decisions made by our government are not made on the floor of the Legislature, but in Board Rooms or offices far from the public view.  What happens on the Floor is mostly window dressing for what has already occurred. (See, I trust our politicians...)


So, how do you maintain faith in the midst of this chaos?  Be clear about who you are as a Child of God and that each individual you encounter is too.  Treat one another with the respect and compassion that God expects of us.  There are too many Internet “trolls” whose only goal is to hurt others.  Artificial Intelligence is only making it more difficult to know what is real and what is not.  Don’t let that type of attitude change you or change the way you see yourself and others.  God expects you to treat one another with love and grace and to be at peace with one another.  Let that be your guide -- even when it’s most difficult.

Next, know what God expects of our life together -- what is best for everyone, not just a few of the most powerful in our society.  There are countless cases of powerful people losing sight of what’s best for the most, getting caught up in selfish desires and ambitions, and completely losing sight of being a servant to one another.  At the risk of sounding too much like one party, we are in this together and it takes each of us to do our part.


Finally, know that Christian faith is not consistent with what is widely popular or acceptable.  Our faith and the community of the Church are to stand firm in who we are and who we are called to be -- messengers of Good News and hope.  Our faith often calls us to be a salmon swimming upstream to accomplish our mission.  Unfortunately, “Good News” and “Hope” don’t sell newspapers or garner ratings.


Maintaining faith in the midst of turmoil is not easy.  Clarity of belief and commitment to high character are required.  Whatever happens in the next few months and beyond, there are three simple things to remember:  Be strong.  Be courageous.  Know that at Creation, God created order out of chaos.


I’ll see you Sunday.

June 2024 Caller Article

What a ride this last month has been!  My son has completed his high school career in the classroom and on the soccer field (as State Runner-up).  As most of you already know, he will continue his academic journey at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio in the fall.  It’s not known if his soccer career will continue as a member of the Soccer Club team at Xavier or not.


As parents, we have reflected on these last few weeks and look forward to what the future holds.  We all assume there will be focus in the classroom as they are building skills for their future careers.  While a few of the graduates will continue their soccer careers in college, the parents largely see soccer, now, as a means to help fund the college tuition.  But for the rest, competitive soccer is over and there may be some reflection on what value the time playing the game has.


Sports is a great teacher.  Some skills sports teach are:  character development, team work, camaraderie, social connection, and exposure to other caring adults.  In addition, the skills players develop on the field lead to learning to follow rules, doing your best, and reaching your full capacity.  All of these things are useful in other areas of life.  Parents push their children into playing sports for all of these reasons and maybe a few others.  But, when the game is over, many are left wondering: what is the value?


The church and its ministries have the potential to help parents teach their children these same skills and qualities, with one distinctive difference – church taught skills and qualities instill love and grace for themselves and others, which builds a better world for the common good.

 

A ministry like Project Transformation (PT) that teaches children to improve their reading skills in a loving, supportive environment is exactly the type of ministry parents are looking for from the church.  PT teaches an important life skill that builds confidence and capacity.  PT brings supportive, caring adults into the lives of children and instills value in the child and makes our world a better place.  This month, there will be a small group of adults from Central Christian Church participating again in the ministry Project Transformation offers to the children in our community.  This will be the third summer that we have supported this essential ministry in our community.

 

Often we look at our pews on Sunday mornings and only see one or two children.  We may believe that we have no children in our ministry.  However, if we broaden our view of community to see where children are and what they need, we will see that have a vital, essential role to play in the health and well-being of our community.  


Yes, parents will always want to put their children in sports programs because of the skills sports teach.  Yet, the games will end and the only lasting value will be wins and losses.  However, if the church might build a ministry that teaches the skills children need to be successful in life, with an eye on filling our communities with loving, gracious people, those skills are always valuable, necessary, and eternal.  The church, this church, has an important ministry to teach our children the skills to build the Reign of God on earth.  Will we expand our view of our community wide enough to embrace the value God instills in us?


I’ll see you Sunday.


Kyle

May 2024 Caller Article

Personally, I am in a season of changing life.  My father’s death brought a new type of grief to my doorstep.  Many of you know what it is like to lose a close loved one – a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a dear friend.  There are moments of celebration and sadness.  Most are quiet and personal.  Grief is a path that never seems to end at a destination but gets walked over and over.  Simultaneously, my son is finishing his high school career – soccer, prom, finals,     graduation – and a college start.  There is a lot of excitement of past accomplishments, celebrating memories, and promises of a hopeful future.


Death sharpens life’s focus – whether in our grief we ponder what we miss about the loved one who is no longer with us or we celebrate what they have meant or we internalize past    regrets we wish we could remedy.  We can’t go back in time to relive or redo those moments.  We move forward with the resolve to savor moments of connection and to limit   human shortcomings.  We commit to live life more fully with those that remain.


Milestones share the grief of moving beyond what has been and show us the path toward what comes next.  These moments bridge past and future.  Last week, Ravenwood High School  Soccer celebrated 11 seniors, a group that has truly changed the school’s soccer program.  It was a perfect ending to the regular season.  All 11 seniors started and played much of the game (surprisingly, only 1 player played an unfamiliar position).  It was a 6-1 win with 5 of the 6 goals scored by a different senior and the other was assisted by a senior.  Pure Joy- for what was being accomplished and some tears (of the moms) for what will no longer be.  


Sometimes I think we can get caught up in these big moments and forget that life also happens in the in-between times. One of the things I reflected on as I watched that senior night game was the friendships that have developed and been nurtured.  One parent, who is an elementary school teacher, remembered refereeing their soccer games on the playground in 2nd grade.  Almost everyday in the high school off season, the boys would gather at a park to play soccer with whoever showed up.  These games went from 4-6 boys to 12-14 showing up to play.  Togetherness, camaraderie, joy, sweat, and more work together everyday to bring big moments to fruition.  Daily, in-between moments build the quality of big moments for themselves and for those around them.

 

Within the church, In this season of resurrection, there is no irony in experiencing death.  Death happens all the time.  Yet, our faith in resurrection helps us to live more broadly.  This Easter, we have been reading the stories of the early Apostles and how the church grew.  We have affirmed that, in fear, we share with others who might have a need.  In Christ, our foundation, we acknowledge that even though our bodies fail us, we are whole as we are created.  We admit that we can’t do these things on our own and need mentors and guides along the way to help shape our faith and outlook.


For the last week I have been pondering this newsletter article.  I have thought about the image of a roller coaster with our ups and downs, highs and lows, and sudden turns.  I have thought about how we celebrate major milestones of life in the midst of grief and loss. It is no surprise that I have thrown several drafts away and now I face a printing deadline that doesn’t care that I can't coherently focus my thoughts right now.  My preaching professor in seminary never accepted late work.  He explained, “Sunday will come whether your sermon is ready or not.  You can’t tell the congregation on Sunday morning about the litany of things that happened through the week or what you prioritized over the sermon and that they should come back on Tuesday morning at 10:30 for the sermon.”  So, I have written a series of paragraphs that may or may not connect to the others.  They are thoughts – that might get developed at a later time in another form.  So, stay tuned.


I’ll see you Sunday.
Kyle

April 2024 Caller Article

A few weeks ago the Parlor Prayer Time conversation focused on reclaiming the vitality of Central Christian Church.  As a congregation that is older and has few active people under 60 years old, we talked about some of the things that used to happen with our young people.  We talked about past generations of ministry in the church and what that might look like today in our church.


I understand that to some, this conversation may seem depressing.  However, I think the tone of the conversation was hopeful.  We are alive and active at the corner of Maney and Main Street.  We have life and vitality in our congregation.  We are making a positive difference in our neighborhood and people know who we are.


As a way to reclaim a sense of that vitality we once had and bring it into our current situation, I will be preaching a series of sermons called “Resurrecting Faith.”  Using the early parts of the Book of Acts, this series will highlight some of the principles the Early Church used to exercise their faith and grow.  “Resurrecting Faith” aims to instill those same principles in our life today.


I could get myself in trouble here, but I’m going to say it anyway – the Church, from local congregations to denominations, to all of Christianity, has lost its core.  For whatever reason (and there are many), I believe the Church has become more interested in meddling in governmental politics and culture wars than being a movement following Jesus.  We, Christians (particularly in America), have become more interested in building a “Christian Nation” than we are cultivating followers of Jesus.  This is not a new thing.  This has been going on for generations.  I believe it has hit a critical tipping point.  Whether you believe that politics has co-opted the Church or the Church has co-opted politics, we are where we are.  I am confident that anything I do will not change the political culture in America.  However, I believe that the Church, when it becomes more interested in following Jesus, can change our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 

 

How we understand and live the Gospel impacts every aspect of our individual lives and our communal life.  Our faith helps us understand how to navigate difficult issues like mental health, immigration, conflicts, the economy, education, and nearly every other major topic in our world today.  We might not be able to change how others act, but we can change how we act.  We can’t control others’ attitudes and actions, but we can control ours.  We can bestdo that by understanding the Gospel and communicating it to others.  “Resurrecting Faith” will help give us the principles on which to build that understanding and practice.


“Resurrecting Faith” focuses on developing simple habits and perspectives that reflect a    mindset of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.  As baptized Christians, ones who believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God, we need to be able to demonstrate how that belief makes a difference in our lives.  It’s more than showing kindness to our neighbor.  I believe it’s about having the core of who we are shine forth with a respect that is noticeable and a love for another that is palpable.  St. Francis of Asisi’s famous quote “preach the gospel always; when necessary, use words” reverberates here.  Our conduct, the aura of who we represent as followers of Jesus, ought to cause someone to ask us about why we seem different from others.  To which we might be able to respond: my faith in        Jesus.  Our words are important too.  Our words help us tell the story of Jesus.


Equipped with the Good News of Jesus Christ – the Gospel – “Resurrecting Faith” will blend the story of the Early Church with our lives in simple, profound ways that is sure to bring a new vitality to Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro.  I hope you will choose to join us every Sunday in the Season of Easter and bring a friend.


I’ll see you Sunday.

Kyle

March 2024 Caller Article

Our Lenten theme this year is "Leaning In, Letting Go" based on Nicole Martin Massey's devotional many of us have been reading. While the copies we purchased have been picked up, let me know if you would like a copy of the devotional.  Our Lenten journey is a 40-day trek to the Cross of Good Friday and the Empty Tomb of Easter.


On the seventh day of creation, as we are told in Genesis 1, God rested.  The commandment for humans to rest on that day continues -- Exodus 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.”  Most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday by going to worship in the morning.  At the risk of being too broad and over generalizing, I believe Jewish folks tend to be way more faithful at observing Sabbath than Christians.  There is a better discipline in the Jewish faith that Sabbath clearly begins at sundown on Friday by gathering with family for a meal.  On Saturday, Sabbath is celebrated when they gather as a community in the temple or synagogue.  Christians, again, broadly speaking, have become more lax at gathering together on Sunday morning and family dinners after church.


Understandings of Sabbath have changed greatly as time and technology have evolved.  I’m pretty sure our idea of “Sabbath” today is nothing close to the original biblical intent.  I can confidently say that 4 years ago, as we sheltered in our homes, I came to affirm that:  1) We are not good at Sabbath  2) We need to practice Sabbath more often.  These are lessons I continue to learn today.


We are not good at Sabbath because our lives are driven by productivity.  If we are not being productive, we get an uneasy feeling in our bodies.  Our society tells us that our worth is in what we produce.  Sabbath tells us that we are more than our work or what we produce.  Sabbath tells us that we are whole and complete because we are beautiful creations of God.  We take Sabbath to remind us of that.

 

Four years ago, many people hit their limit of “sabbath.”  Being sheltered in our homes, for many of us, was a welcomed relief for a couple of weeks.  But, after the initial shock of what this might mean for us we became more unsettled with the idea of pausing our lives for a period of time.  Many folks, who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, were able to settle into a routine or work and productivity from home that allowed them to spend the commute time to be with family.  It took my house a few weeks to finally settle into a helpful rhythm of work/school and play.  It took work and intentionality.  It was not perfect.  There were many hiccups in the routine.

As we take our Lenten journey this year, I invite you to reflect on the need to practice Sabbath more often.  Rest remains unnatural to many of us.  Down time, sorting through the “stuff” on our calendars, and determining what is most important to us feels weird.  I think one of the positive things that came out of the pandemic was a re-prioritization of our lives, which is ongoing and continues to cause difficulty with long-standing expectations.


We need to practice Sabbath more often so that we become better at it.  We do not need Sabbath because we need rest from our work.  We need Sabbath to be reminded that we are more than our work and what we produce.  We need Sabbath so that we can focus on who we are and who’s we are.  May we take time this Lent to lean into Sabbath rest and healthy practices to embrace God’s presence to affirm life more often and let go of those practices and habits that take life from ourselves and each other.


I’ll see you Sunday.
Kyle

February 2024 Caller Article

On Tuesdays and Thursdays in January (except for the week of Snowmageddon 2024) a group of 4-10 folks have been meeting for conversation and prayer at Noon in the Parlor.  The conversations have been far ranging – from lifting up specific individuals and/or situations that need prayer to wider societal concerns for today and the future.  I often spend a little time afterward reflecting on my notes and the overall conversation – because there is a lot of depth and meaning underneath these concerns.


The prayer time has been filled with the usual things most of us expect our church concerns to be -- shut-ins, health situations for members, family, and friends. We continue to lift up the individuals and families that are near to us. There are concerns for the congregation’s future and the Search Committee as they do their work.  During these cold months, we share concerns about those in our community who need shelter and safety.


Then, there are conversations that reflect deep concerns beyond what is immediate or on the surface of our life together.  There are deeper questions about what " Radical Hospitality" might look like for our congregation.  We ponder how balancing invitation and safety intersect in ways that help us to feel comfortable enough to risk being uncomfortable.  In an election year for our country, we share about how we understand differences with others -- our friends, families, co-workers, other church members, and complete strangers. We share concerns about how we navigate real conversation that is respectful and honest.  The political system in this country may be broken, but it does not mean we have to break one another.


These are just a few of the things that are on our hearts and minds as we come together in community for prayer. While there is a heavy-ness to the concerns, there is a hopeful tone for real possibility of making a difference. The sea is immense and our boat is small. But we are in it together to build one another for the work of ministry.

 

I recently came across a quote from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, renowned Jewish theologian and biblical scholar, from his 1955 book God in Search of Man.  Heschel writes:  “It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.”


Spending time in prayer to lift up the concerns of the moment gives us the space to articulate what else worries us.  Often, deeper considerations reveal to us why the immediate makes us anxious.  Prayer moves us to faith, to worship, to love.  Prayer calms our spirit in order to see things more clearly to live and act with compassion toward one another.  Our prayer is one of the essential things we need to do in order to keep Heschel’s concerns from being realized.  Prayer will bring new vigor and vitality to our congregation.


You are invited to join us in the Parlor each Tuesday and Thursday at Noon.  If you’re not able to be there in person, you may spend some time on your own to lift your prayer concerns to God and to take some time to explore deeper questions of life and faith. 


I’ll see you Sunday.
Kyle

January 2024 Caller Article

As we embark on a new year, I want to tell you about some new things that are happening around Central Christian Church.  First, the Elders have reaffirmed their commitment to Acts 2:42 as guiding the congregation’s life.  Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”   This scripture guided our congregation and the Eldership in 2023 as we moved toward a “back to basics” of what Church is and how we organize ourselves as a community of faith.  You are encouraged to join the Elders in praying for the congregation everyday at 2:42 p.m.  (and a.m. if you’re awake).  


To participate:  set an alarm to remind yourself and join us with this prayer:  God, may Your life-changing grace and transforming power “Break-Through” at Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro. At the corner of Maney and Main St., inspire us to be a place where Christ and Community intersect.  May lives be changed, the church renewed, leaders empowered, and ALL sent to bring wholeness in a broken world.  Amen.  We will again have cards with this prayer to give out to carry with you.  Take several and give them to your friends and family to join us.


Speaking of friends and family, invite them to join us in prayer and invite them to worship on Sunday.  For years, if not decades, church folks have asked why people don’t come to church anymore.  I think the better practice is to share with others why you come to Central Christian and encourage others to find something meaningful in our congregation.  The pandemic has changed many ways to live, work,  play, and worship.  We are still sorting out what it means and how we can move forward in a healthy way.  One of the best ways to do that is to invite others to be a part of the process of discovering new meaning for their lives in our community.  For the next six months, I challenge you to invite at least one person a month to come to worship with you.

 

Another challenge I am issuing is a financial one.  For a while, our congregation has been faced with a declining budget.  While we have some money in reserves for a rainy day, we do not want to get into the habit of relying on those reserves to fund our ongoing ministry.  So, if you are not currently tithing (10% of your income, gross or net) but have felt led to but are scared, I am offering you a money back guarantee.  You will need to let me know and we will sign a contract.  If at the end of six months (January to June) and don’t feel like the stretch to a tithe has made a difference in your life or the church’s, I will refund the money you have given to Central Christian Church in 2024. 

Before you think I have completely lost my mind, here’s why I’m doing this:  I believe our heart goes where our money goes.  If more of your money goes to the church, your heart will naturally be drawn to invest more of yourself too.  With a financial and emotional investment, we will see a difference in the life of the church.  If you accept this challenge and don’t see a positive difference, your money will be returned.  If you do see a positive difference, you have been a catalyst for new life and ministry.


Finally, but not lastly, prayer is a primary activity as Christians.  Prayer undergirds every aspect of our life together.  We need to join together for the specific purpose of praying.  So, in addition to praying at 2:42 every day, I invite you to join me in the Parlor every Tuesday and Thursday at Noon.  There is no agenda – just prayer.  We will talk about what is on our hearts and then share that with God.  I know that as we share our hearts with God, we will be more open to God’s leading.


In 2024, something big is in the works for Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro.  We have been working hard to lay a strong foundation on which to build.  Now, as we dedicate ourselves to prayer, to teaching, to fellowship, and breaking bread (an image of justice where everyone is welcome at Christ’s Table), we will see the ways God works in our midst.


I’ll see you Sunday.

Kyle

December 2023 Caller Article

Advent begins Sunday, December 3.  Advent is a season filled with wonder and anticipation! Advent includes four Sundays of preparation and expectation leading up to the celebration of Christmas. The word "Advent" itself means "coming" or "arrival," signifying the arrival of something greatly anticipated and longed for.


In the Church, during Advent, there's a sense of waiting and hopeful anticipation, not just for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but also for the promise of hope, peace, joy, and love that the arrival of the Christ Child brings. During worship, we mark this season with lighting Advent candles, talking about the meaning of each Chrismon hanging on our tree in the Sanctuary, and singing the songs of meaning for this season.  There is a serene beauty in the traditions, music, and decorations associated with Advent – a time that encourages reflection, spiritual growth, and mindfulness amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.


This year, during Advent, the guiding word for me is wonder.  Wonder sparks and ignites our imagination—wonder is the gateway to exploring new ideas, possibilities, and perspectives. When we experience wonder, whether through marveling at something beautiful, encountering something unfamiliar, or being inspired by the unknown, it triggers our imagination to soar.


Children model wonder for us each Christmas season.  Stories, both religious and secular, pique curiosity to encourage us to ask questions, seek answers, and explore the unknown. This curiosity fuels our imagination, encouraging us to create scenarios that give us language to expand upon what we've experienced.  Wonder fertilizes creative thinking. When we are filled with wonder, our minds start connecting dots that might seem unrelated, leading to innovative ideas and imaginative solutions. Wonder inspires artistic expression, storytelling, and problem-solving in unique ways.


Wonder encourages an open-minded approach to the world, allowing us to entertain possibilities beyond our current knowledge or beliefs and fostering a mindset that's receptive to new ideas and alternative perspectives.  Wonder evokes emotions deeply rooted in awe, joy, and amazement. These emotions can drive us to explore the world with greater depth, influencing our imagination to conjure scenarios and stories that capture the essence of what we find wondrous.  Experiencing wonder expands our mental horizons,  broadening our understanding of what's possible, pushing the boundaries of our imagination to encompass things beyond our immediate reality.

 

This month, I will be spending time exploring the ways I can claim the wonder of Advent and and Christmas as to how wonder pushes me to explore beyond current reality.  I will spend a little more time hearing the stories, watching the movies, and listening to the music that brings awe and wonder to my life this Advent.  While I may find different answers or expressions of wonder than I did as a child, I will (we will), nonetheless, approach this season with a more zealous sense of wonder than years past.  


Maybe, just maybe, a reconnection with wonder will move me (and us) out of the fear and anxiety that permeates the rest of our days.  May we affirm in the wonder of this Advent that there is hope, we will make peace, we will find more joy, and love one another that endures beyond when the calendar (or society) says we can go back to the way we were.


I’ll see you Sunday.

Kyle 

November 2023 Caller Article

The Book of Exodus doesn’t just tell the story about the liberation of the Israelite slaves from Egyptian captivity and their journey through the wilderness toward the Promised Land.  Yes, Exodus bears witness to the meaning of the exodus and revelation experience at Mount Sinai and lays the foundation for Israel’s religious traditions.


The Book of Exodus is the story of us -- of our struggles as individuals and as a community, of our journey toward living wholly as a people in relationship with God, of our task to live,     according to the promises God makes with us and we make with one another.  When we look deeper into the story of Exodus, we find ourselves caught in the tangles of living as people once totally dependent on the whims and demands of others to a people fully free to make   decisions on our own and to live with the blessings and consequences of those decisions.  


Exodus has great themes that are relevant today -- themes like liberation (freeing ourselves from the bondage of our own thoughts, actions, and perspectives, as well as others’), law (establishing the rules that we all live by), covenant (living together in relationships that honor one another), and worship (setting the rituals of our worship of God and what they mean).


Many times we see the people wandering in the wilderness as lost, without direction and   without life.  Instead, what happens in the wilderness is an ordering of life together, setting up rules to live by, gaining an identity as God’s people, and maturing into a people God created them to be, not the people bound in slavery and oppression.


As we grow as people of faith, as a community of faith, we understand God’s presence and  activity in our life.  We see that we are growing, that we are preparing to live freely and   wholly as God’s people, and that, while we make mistakes and other poor choices, God’s   presence, forgiveness, and grace abound.  For the people of Israel, the wilderness was a place of tremendous growth and change.  It may appear as they were just biding time between one place to the next, but amazing things happened to them

 

Two years ago when I came to Central Christian Church as your Interim Minister, many of you thought I would be holding your hand as you walked through the transition from one  Minister to the next.  Many assumed that I was simply a placeholder for this temporary time.  Yet, this interim time is proving to be a time of significant reordering and growth.  Like the Israelites in the wilderness, Central Christian is slowly discovering the ways in which the future is available.  Rooted in the past and respectful of our predecessors, a new day is     dawning for this congregation.  New opportunities arise each day to be in ministry with our surrounding community and beyond.

Over the last year, we have been living into a new set of by-laws and governing principles.  There have been hiccups and obstacles.  There have been unforeseen questions that require better answers.  There are different conversations that we need to have as we figure out how to live into these new parameters for our community’s life.


We are also seeking to ask different questions of each other in how we act toward one another.  The covenants of past conduct may not be sufficient for future life together.  Yet, under it all, at our foundation and core, we worship together and return to the Table of grace and reconciliation.  Exodus reveals the depths of who we are and how we live in relationship with one another and with God.  May we find a path together through the wilderness that leads to a new land of promise.


I’ll see you Sunday.

Kyle

October 2023 Caller Article

Beginning in October, we are starting a Stewardship emphasis to help draft an adequate budget for ministry in 2024.  I know to many people “Stewardship” is a four-letter word that is not to be uttered in their presence.  People are generally uncomfortable talking about stewardship  because the focus is often only about money.  Historically, we haven’t had an adequate    working definition of stewardship, nor a clear, consistent way of putting stewardship into     action.

 

In truth, stewardship is an important tool we need for ministry.  According to the Center for Faith and Giving, “Christian Stewardship is grateful and responsible use of God’s gifts in light of God’s purpose as revealed in Jesus Christ.  Christian stewards, empowered by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves to conscious, purposeful decisions.”  Stewardship is not just about money.  Faithful Christian Stewardship is about all of God’s gifts being used for the purpose of ministry, including time and talent.

 

Grateful expression of Christian stewardship embodies the recognition that all gifts, whether material or spiritual, are blessings from God.  Stewardship reflects our heartfelt acknowledgment of God’s grace and generosity manifest in our lives.  We are given the responsibility to use the gifts wisely, with compassion and care, to help others in dedication to God’s            glory.  Gratitude becomes the driving force, motivating others to also share their blessings, to nurture community, and to contribute to the well-being of all.

 

Responsible Christian stewardship is rooted in the conscientious understanding that our       resources, talents, and time are entrusted to us by God.  Our commitment to use these gifts thoughtfully, ethically, and sustainably, reflects that we are stewards, not owners, of all that we possess.  Careful management and accountability, ensuring that our actions align with God’s values of love, justice, and compassion, moves us toward responsibly tending to the needs of our world and its inhabitants.   Thus, we fulfill our duty to care for God’s creation, to foster a sense of interconnectedness, and to participate in the building of God’s reign on earth.

 

The story in Matthew 14 of Jesus feeding the 5,000 beautifully illustrates the principles of grateful and responsible Christian stewardship.  When the disciples initially realized the     meager resources they had and the immense task they faced, they focused on the scarcity and their limitations, echoing our tendency to focus on what we lack.  However, Jesus taught them a transformative lesson in stewardship.  By taking what was available, blessing it, and sharing it, Jesus demonstrated the power of approaching our situation with an attitude of abundance rather than deficiency.  

Our faith calls us to recognize and be grateful for the gifts and resources we have, no matter how modest they seem.  By asking God’s blessing on what we possess and sharing it with others, we become responsible stewards of what we have, multiplying the impact we have on our community and beyond.  Further, we embrace the profound truth that through faith and stewardship, there is always enough to meet the needs of many.

 

Our collective endeavor to do ministry as Central Christian Church in 2024 and beyond begins today with taking a look at the gifts God has given you – in time, talent, and treasure.  As you name those gifts and how much of each gift you have, ask God to bless them, and decide how much you are able to share to build God’s reign on earth.  That’s how our faith works – God takes what you have, blesses it, and invites you to share with others.  In God, there is always enough for everyone.

 

I’ll see you Sunday. 

Kyle

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